Members say 'no' to reform
On Feb. 3, the SRA opposed a motion that would have brought seat reform to the assembly. The motion would restructure faculty representation based on a formula that would use pure proportionality to allocate seats to faculties.
A separate motion, though, was passed that could see seats added to the SRA for new academic divisions. If a faculty or department with more than 200 students wants representation on the assembly, they can apply to the SRA for a seat.
While the initial seat reform motion would have benefited larger faculties like Engineering, it would have brought the Kinesiology and Health Sciences caucuses down to one person, assuming the assembly kept to 35 members.
During the meeting, there was heated debate over whether or not seat reform was even a current priority for the MSU and the student body at large. Simon Gooding-Townsend, SRA Speaker, noted that seat reform was introduced in order to ensure more equitable representation on the SRA.
Currently, Science and Social Sciences are disproportionately underrepresented, with ratios of one representative for 836 students and one rep for 821 students, respectively.
Arts & Science, on the other hand, has one representative for 276 students.
However, as the debate unfolded, representatives argued over how necessary reform really was, especially as it was addressed through the “pure proportionality” proposal.
Justin Neves, SRA Health Sciences, emphasized that there had been a low turnout to the ad-hoc committee that was dedicated to tackling the issue of seat reform and proposed the proportionality concept as the most feasible solution.
“After two years and many no-shows to meetings, I don’t see why people all of a suddenly care … Is there an appetite to make this change right now?”
However, multiple representatives urged the assembly to consider discussing seat reform at length before considering closing the debate entirely.
In frustration with the assemblies disinterest in the issue, Jeff Doucet, the caucus leader for Social Sciences, declared that “this SRA has been far too apathetic and has no interest in actually discussing seat policy reform. People here need to get their shit together and get their head in the game.”
Elise Milani, SRA Humanities, also re-iterated the importance of the debate.
“This is a valid conversation that should be had … maybe we don’t understand what the change could even be, but we should still have this conversation,” she said.
However, despite the enthusiasm for dialogue, which was also applauded by MSU president Siobhan Stewart, many members seemed discouraged by the implications endorsing the “pure proportionality” solution.
Naomi Pullen, the sole SRA member for Arts & Science, explained the difficulties that she has faced being a one-person caucus. She described how, at times, she was unable to undertake larger projects, but how for the small Arts & Science student population there was no need for a second seat.
David Campbell, MSU Vice-President (Administration) and President-Elect, described how the proportionality proposal was the best solution that the ad-hoc committee had come up with, and with the failure of the motion, the ad-hoc committee would most likely be dissolved along with any direct efforts to reform seat allocation.
While seat reform through re-allocation seems to be unlikely, the assembly did open up discussion on adding seats for new academic divisions. The Science caucus specifically discussed how the Integrated Science program would be looking to obtain a unique seat on the SRA.
“In the case of iSci, you have a really distinctive program … in talking with the Science reps, they mostly have the same Welcome Week, the same dean and a similar set of courses or course load. But iSci has a different campus culture, a different university reporting structure and a different academic culture,” said Campbell about iSci’s case for being considered a separate academic division.